The All Blacks overturned a 17-point deficit to claim a thrilling 32-30 win over the Springboks on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Loftus.
How did the Boks possibly lose this one? The hosts looked certain to claim back-to-back wins over the All Blacks for the first time since 2009 after producing a tactical masterclass over the first hour of proceedings.
However, the Boks’ discipline then terribly let them down as they conceded three tries in the final quarter to squander a famous victory that had been there for the taking.
With the scores deadlocked at 6-6 after a tense first half, the Boks struck a telling blow just after the restart when Jesse Kriel produced a lovely show-and-go before bursting away to score the opening try of the game. Moments later, Kriel popped up to win a penalty at the breakdown. Handré Pollard slotted the shot at goal from 55m, and suddenly the Boks led by 10.
The Springboks continued to feast on territory and possession, and so their confidence grew. In the 52nd minute, captain Siya Kolisi broke through the All Blacks’ defence and put Damian de Allende away to score next to the posts. A crowd of over 50,000 people roared as the Boks soared into a 23-6 lead.
But then came the All Blacks fightback. The first riposte came via a try to Aaron Smith, and although Cheslin Kolbe would score next for the Boks to re-establish a 17-point lead heading into the final quarter, New Zealand weren’t ready to give up the fight.
Rieko Ioane scored in the corner soon after Kolbe’s try, while Scott Barrett dotted down under the post to make it a five-point ball game heading into the dramatic final stages.
With a minute left to play, Ardie Savea wriggled his way over the tryline, and Richie Mo’unga slotted the conversion to silence the capacity crowd.
The All Blacks had looked to make a statement of intent before kick-off when they delivered a rousing rendition of the Kapa O Pango haka, but it would be the Boks who drew first blood when Pollard struck a beautiful long-distance penalty in the fifth minute.
In fact, within the first 15 minutes of this clash, the Boks enjoyed a whopping 90% of possession, while the All Blacks uncharacteristically conceded five penalties and looked utterly out of sorts. Pollard duly slotted another three-pointer, and the Springboks were smiling.
It was also notable that the Boks put 13 kicks in play during the opening half an hour as they enforced a tactical approach aimed at turning the All Blacks and forcing them to play from deep, while also providing kick-chase opportunities out wide.
On the balance of play, the Springboks would certainly have hoped for some more scoreboard pressure in their favour, but instead, Beauden Barrett slotted a couple of penalties to draw the scores level at the break.
Then came a quite remarkable second half, where the Boks squandered a golden opportunity to do the double over the All Blacks.
Springboks – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3) Penalties: Pollard (3).
All Blacks – Tries: Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3). Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2).
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix